This Sunday is Isaac’s 5th birthday, but as we are away over the weekend visiting one of my favourite cities, York, we held his party last Saturday – at a local soft play centre.
As it happens, this was the same soft play centre where the boys had a joint party last year (their birthdays are only three days apart), but since Ollie will turn nine next week, he fancied doing something a little more ‘grown up’ this year, and has chosen to take a few friends to the National Football Museum instead (followed by a trip to Nando’s, which I have agreed to on the strict understanding no one refers to it as ‘cheeky’).
Unfortunately, because we left it quite late to book Isaac’s party, there was no availability for the ‘exclusive’ hire of the venue (after normal opening hours), so we were forced to host it while they were still open to the public. This didn’t particularly bother us, as Isaac only had around fifteen of his friends attending anyway, but some of the other families there were, how can I put this…. rough as shit?
The other issue this posed, was that not every child arriving around 3pm was there for the party, and because Isaac only started school in September, we still don’t know who some of his friends are, so we had to ask him each time a family walked in whether he knew the child or not.
There was one child in particular, however, who clearly didn’t belong at the party. Not only was she too young (probably three, at a guess), but – without being snobby – to say she was scummy would be an understatement. Look, I am acutely aware that Isaac can be a dickhead at times, and I sometimes joke about him being feral, but this little girl actually was feral. She was filthy, nasty, rude, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if she was carrying some kind of blade.
The first time we noticed her, was when she wandered over to our reserved party table – where all the parents were congregating while their kids played – took one look at the pile of gifts everyone had kindly brought, and said “I’ll take one.”
At this point, I just thought she was perhaps a little naive, and an embarrassed parent would come running over to retrieve her and apologise, but when no one appeared, my wife and I had to politely explain that these were birthday presents for our son, and weren’t for her.
Undeterred, she glared at us and said: “You have lots. I’ll just take one”, before making a grab for the gift nearest to her.
“No, that’s not for you”, my wife said pleasantly but firmly (when my chosen language might have been a little harsher) but she still had to physically prize the girl’s filthy little mitts off the gift, as she wasn’t giving it up easily. Eventually, she did leave the table and wander off (presumably in search of something else to steal), but still no parent(s) seemed to want to accept responsibility for her.
Before long, she was back again, only this time she bypassed our table and headed straight for the food counter behind us, where she asked a parent in the queue to buy her a box of raisins. When the lady – who clearly had no idea who the child was – politely refused, the little girl then took the box up to the poor lad who was manning the counter, and put them down in front of him with a 1p coin (which she had presumably discovered on the floor somewhere).
When he, rather awkwardly, told her that wasn’t enough money, she stared directly at him, and said in a low, menacing voice: ‘take the money’.
Now, if there is one thing I have learned from many years watching horror films, it’s that nothing is quite so scary as demonic little girls, and even though she was facing away from me at the time, and was speaking to someone else, I damn near shit myself, so I have no idea how terrified he must have been.
I was then briefly distracted talking to another parent, but the next thing I knew, the grubby little tree-dweller was eating the raisins, so she had either chosen to ignore the lad behind the till and steal them, or he had decided that his life was worth more than a box of shriveled fruit. A wise move, because had he continued to deny her the snack, and then suddenly dropped dead, it would not have surprised me in the slightest.
We were in the presence of pure evil.
Within minutes, she appeared beside me again (I’m not ashamed to admit I actually yelped, and may have soiled myself a little), and began demanding that someone take her on the ‘big slide’. At this point, a friend of ours suggested they go and find her parents instead, but I had begun to question whether they ever existed (there was an argument this child was not the offspring of a human woman); and if they did, whether she had at some point slaughtered them in their sleep – ok, I may have been overreacting by this point.
As I suspected, no parents could be located (at least, none who wanted to claim her), and even though she was deposited on the other side of the centre to ruin someone else’s day, minutes later she was once again heading towards Isaac’s presents. By the time my wife and I got there, she was already in the process of unwrapping one of them, so again we had to physically remove her (whilst at all times avoiding eye contact, lest we burst into flames), before making the decision that perhaps I should take the gifts to the car.
When I got there, I have to admit I opened the boot very slowly, since part of me envisaged her jumping out of the enclosed space and sinking her teeth into my neck.
Once all the presents were securely in the car, it was time for Isaac’s party tea, and thankfully she didn’t turn up for that (it was in a separate room), but I still kept an eye out for her sneaking in behind another parent, in a bid to steal some food, or perhaps eat/destroy/urinate on the birthday cake (which was frankly amazing):
After the children had eaten and played games, there was just time for another half hour in the main room before the party was due to end, and Isaac decided he wanted to go into the toddler’s area with a few friends.
As this enclosure is designed for younger kids to play safely, the door has a magnetic button at the top, which only adults can reach. The idea is that parents can let their children into the caged area (which has a ball-pit, slide, etc.), and then relax with a coffee, knowing they cannot hurt themselves, or – more importantly – escape.
Of course, when Isaac and his two friends went in, there was devil spawn once more, who immediately made it her mission to ruin their fun. It was only at this point, when I began to suggest her behaviour wasn’t very nice, my attention was drawn to a small, shriveled woman sat on the floor, like the ‘Psammead’ from Five Children and It, and she muttered something about being the girl’s aunt.
I wanted to respond with something like “You do realise your disgusting, feral, street urchin of a niece needs to learn some fucking manners, don’t you?”; but if there is one thing I detest more than confrontation, it’s being brutally murdered in front of my family, so I decided to simply walk away.
Soon after, however, I could hear a commotion in the toddler area, and headed back to make sure Isaac and his friends were ok. Sure enough, the noise was coming from Satan’s offspring, who was demanding to be let out of the enclosure. With no aunt in sight (she must have escaped), I calmly explained that I wasn’t allowed to let her out, and that it might be best for her to stay in there (for the safety of the other children, but also to acclimatise her to incarceration, ready for later life).
At this point, her eyes glowed red (or, at least, they have each time I have played the events back in my nightmares since), and she growled: “Let. Me. Out.”
“Nope. You stay in there, you evil little fuck.”
Then, as I turned away to walk back to our table, I could hear her thrashing around behind me, but didn’t dare glance back in case her head was spinning around and she was vomiting green ooze in my direction.
[GIF deleted because it scared me]
It was only a minute or two later, when I dared to look, I realised the noise had been her frantically destroying the ‘house’ Isaac and his friends had built from cushioned bricks, then using them to build a platform against the door. Within seconds, she had created a structure which enabled her to climb up, reach around the door, and release it herself. I had to hand it to her, she was a resourceful little critter.
Needless to say, when the door released and she came tumbling out, the aunt was nowhere to be seen, and it took another parent to come over and escort her back to a table on the other side of the room – where the aunt was sat with a couple who I later discovered were the girl’s parents. Yes, they had been there all along, ignoring not only their daughter, but more importantly her appalling behaviour.
At that point, I hated them even more than her. Ok, she was clearly possessed by some malevolent spirit, and I have no doubt there was a black pit where her soul should have been; but she was only young, and clearly had very little chance in life with these two toothless gibbons for parents. I almost felt sorry for her.
Thanks for reading x